The Family's Swamp Trip 2007
Big Cypress Visit after 20 Years

Robert's first Swamp Buggy Trip
Swamp buggy near jetport 1974
Steve and Robert (driving) from Swamp Buggy Trip in 1974
Robert's Latest Swamp Buggy Trip
Everglades Conservation & Sportsmen Club Swamp buggy picture
Robert and Allen ready for the Swamp Buggy Trip 2007
My son and daughter were able to come home for Christmas this year, so we took that as an opportunity to visit camp SixPack. My son had not been there in over twenty years and my daughter had never visited. My son had been into the Big Cypress Swamp at an early age. As you can see in the above picture, he was a small tyke of about 4 years of age on his first trips. As he got older he accompanied me many trips and that continued until he discovered an interest in computers. Soon the extension cord on the computer

was not long enough to reach camp SixPack and he started staying home. This was not a completely bad thing, since Dr.  Robert, (PhD), now works for Microsoft and does research for them in Seattle. He has kept his enjoyment of the outdoors and enjoys weekend visits to the Cascades and Mt. Rainer, the local Washington State versions of a rain forest. Robert's first visits into the Big Cypress Swamp were before the NPS had much influence on it.  So imagine his surprise when he encountered this sign at the beginning of the buggy trail, something totally foreign to him.

Stephanie's first Swamp Buggy Trip
End of the Swamp Trip at ECSC Gate

The swamp had been tamed down by regulations and restrictions, it was not the wild wilderness he grew up with as a boy anymore.

His friend Allen works at the University of Washington and is into Ornithology, (for my friends, that is the study of birds). Allen had participated in the field research of the spotted owl, which was not real popular with the outdoorsmen when it was being done out West. Allen could not resist the opportunity to see the birds of the Big Cypress Swamp, so he came along also.

My daughter Stephanie, for her whole life, had seen Dad disappear into the swamp on weekends and hear the stories and adventures of these trips. She looked forward to seeing what the swamp was like first hand. (I have to brag on my daughter a little bit also, she is about to complete her Masters in Education, and enjoys teaching instrumental music)

So the day after Christmas, an excellent blue sky day, we set off from home at 6 am in the morning. We watched the sun rise as we drove along the edge of the Everglades, heading down to the Big Cypress Swamp. A quick stop for breakfast and provisions and we were ready for an overnight trip to the swamp. We loaded up the swamp buggy at the Conservation Club and headed out.  
Big Cypress Swamp Deer on ORV Trail
Big Cypress Swamp Deer
Big Cypress Swamp ORV Trail still Wet
ORV trail in Big Cypress Swamp
Not too far into the ride on the designated trail, we encountered these deer. We stopped the buggy and watched them cross the road and were amazed at how quickly they disappeared in the vegetation along the road. As you can see the swamp was pretty dry along the sustainable portion of the designated trail. After seeing another deer along the way, we soon came to the un-sustainable part of the designated trail. This part is still wet and rutted up.  Like most things the NPS has told us over the years, the promise of the trails being improved in a manner that is sustainable is not happening. A few years of construction and then it stopped, long before finished. It's the NPS's M.O. on things.
Camp Six Pack at Last
Camp Six Pack on Arrival

After seeing a few wild turkeys and lots of swamp, we finally arrived at camp. A quick tour of the grounds and we started into the chore of opening camp and unloading the buggy. After getting settled in a little bit, we started a walking tour of the area around camp. This included the large cypress trees in the cypress dome behind camp and then on to some of the surrounding camps and areas of interest around camp. After that we took a buggy ride

Swamp Walk
Old Cypress Tree Base
One of the big (and old) cypress trees in the Sixpack Swamp
to see some of the areas of interest that were more then a short hike away. This included the Sugar Mill Hammock and one of the local grass strip airports. Along the way, we came across a momma gator and her babies living in a small, full of water, buggy rut in the trail. She had a tunnel into the side of  the rut and retreated into that when the buggy went by. Here is a better picture of the small water hole she was living and raising her babies in. As the sun begin to set on our buggy ride, we needed to head for camp, before it got too dark and get our dinner started. We got back to camp and started the generator to give us electric lights. This is something Robert was not used to, because we used only gas lantern lights during the years he came to camp. After dinner, the visitors couldn't wait for the generator to run out of gas, so they could enjoy the stars in the darkness of the swamp.
Moma Gator with Baby
This Momma Gator was right in the Buggy Trail
How many baby gators do you see?
Maleluca Bites the Dust
Saying goodbye to a Melaleuca Tree

The next morning, while I was fixing breakfast, the kids wandered around the surrounding area of camp, enjoying the morning and taking pictures. Sharp eyed Robert spotted a melaleuca tree, which he remembered I don't tolerate near camp and offered to cut it down. Too soon, it was time to close up camp and leave

Gator in the Trail, gotta move

On the ride out, we encountered a gator moving from one water hole to another. It ended up we were trying to go in opposite directions on the same path. Now the NPS frowns on leaving the designated trails with an ORV and the gator didn't seem to want to leave it either, so we had to reach a compromise. After the gator and I had a little discussion, (and maybe a tug or two on his tail), he decided to move off the path and let us use it. We continued on our trip to the hard road.

My son and daughter took lots of pictures on the trip, which can be viewed here:

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful, but enjoyable on a nice day in the swamp.


written by Steve  01_17_2008